SINCE the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and Israel on Jan 29, 1992, no Indian Prime Minister visited Israel in these 25 years. Since then both emphasized on the need of stronger economic and security relations. Narendra Modi is the first Indian PM who broke the tradition and visited Israel on July 4 2017. He accentuated that the economic prosperity and combating terrorism should be ensured with the bilateral cooperation.
India’s second largest defence supplier is Israel after Russia and during this visit there were 7 agreements signed between the two countries ranging from agriculture to space. Thus this visit marked a palpable and new wave of strategic partnership. India-Israel nexus giving the expression to the international political environment that they have shared interests not only in the realm of agriculture and medicine but also in defence and against un-named enemies. The nature of this partnership is beyond techno-economic-military relations and now is political and ideological as Benjamen Ntanyaho named sister democracies.
Now it is becoming a bit obvious from the most of India’s foreign policy commentators that public has acknowledged both countries’ commercial and bilateral relations. The previous decade had witnessed through the Indian media outlets’ regular publication of signing new joint ventures particularly in defence field and covered several Indian Chief Minister’s visits to Tel Aviv to seek the collaboration in agriculture and water technologies. Now it is pertinent to discuss the reasons behind this existing relationship. There are some domestic and international repercussions of a visit Israel specifically with reference to Pakistan as the history witnessed Israel’s military support to India since Kargil War in 1999 along with the unnoticed assistance in agriculture and water technologies to some Indian states. Additionally, its policies are increasingly criticized by the western partners; eventually it has its own successful pivot to Asia by deepening its engagement with China and India.
It is also pertinent to discuss here that, on one side China-India security relations are not fully trustworthy, on the other side the developing China-Israel relations and Israel-India defence relations cementing India’s privileged defence against China. India’s pre stance over Palestine cannot be completely de-hyphenated because India cannot afford to fall back into the zero-sum game what it had followed prior to 1992.
As Israel is believed to be the second largest source for arms imports for the Indian military, even according to some comments it is the first surpassing Russia as it is the reliable and value free supplier for arms to India over the years. Israel is getting immense praise for reliability and technological sophistication in defence sector which includes well-entrenched in the areas of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, air defence systems, Special Forces equipment and electronic warfare equipment.
According to the available information presented in Parliament by Minister of State for Defence Subash Bhamre in March, that from 2015-16 and 2016- February 2017, 37 contracts have been signed with vendors of various countries for capital procurement of defence equipment, some of them are with Israel second with the US with which mine contracts have been signed. India has been investing tens of billions in updating its old Soviet-era military hardware against long-standing tensions with regional countries China and Pakistan. In April, a state owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) said that India would buy nearly $2 billion worth of weapons technology leaving it the military exporting giant’ largest ever defence contract. According to the deal IAI would provide India with an advanced defence system of medium range surface to air missiles, launchers and communication technology. Modi made this trip after his visit to Washington where he and Donald Trump embraced each other as friends vowed to work more closely in combating terrorism, war in Afghanistan and towards defence cooperation. As India is currently the world’s emerging economy and Modi is expecting by drawing more foreign investment to cement its economic growth. Israel’s defence deals have included those components which would be assembled in India.
The clear demonstration of their defence ties was the April, 2017 $2 billion defence deal for advanced medium range surface to air missile system, eventually providing Indian army the capability to shoot down aircraft, missile and drones at a range of up to 70 Km. Previously in September 2016, tests were conducted of jointly developed long range surface to air missile destroyers of Indian Navy. Another successful test was conducted in May this year of Israeli made spyder quick reaction surface to air missile. Summing up there are five things which define India-Israel relations; (i) Defence, agriculture, trade, diplomacy and water management. During the recent visit India and Israel signed agreements on science, agriculture and technology as part of Narendra Modi’s visit to the Middle Eastern country, (ii) Defence had been a key driver of Indian-Israeli cooperation, (iii) The countries agreed to create a bilateral technology innovation fund worth $40 million.
In nutshell both countries’ partnership in respective fields specifically defence has serious implications for Pakistan and on South Asian region. One can say through enhanced defence cooperation is strengthening India’s military might about that Pakistan has serious security concerns. If India leaves its traditional stance on Palestine by enhancing diplomatic ties with Israel it is sufficient to say that both Israel and India are going side by side for hegemonic roles in their respective regions. Countering India’s hegemonic aspirations, Pakistan must seek to strengthen its diplomatic relations with other countries by strengthening specifically with Russia and China.
— The writer is Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad.